WASHINGTON - Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as someone who has "never been too graceful in her statements," according to the Kremlin transcript of an interview that aired on French TV and radio Wednesday.
After being asked about Clinton's recent tough rhetoric on Russia's foreign policy, Putin said, "It's better not to argue with women." He later characterized Clinton's comments as a sign of weakness, which is maybe "not the worst quality for a woman," he added.
Putin was responding to Clinton's criticism of Russian foreign policy in Eastern Europe, especially her comparison of Putin's Crimea annexation to Adolf Hitler's European aggression ahead of World War II.
"When people push boundaries too far, it's not because they are strong but because they are weak," Putin said in the interview with France's Europe1 and TF1.
Putin also criticized U.S. foreign policy as "aggressive" and suggested that "such extreme statements" suggest a lack of "valid arguments."
Putin and Clinton have met and negotiated a number of times, especially when the former senator and possible frontrunner for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2016 served as America's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013.
"We always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events," Putin said, reflecting on their interactions.
Clinton first knocked Putin at a Long Beach, California private fundraiser in March, when she compared his actions to that of Hitler's in World War II.
At the time, Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats accused Russia of sending thousands of troops into the region -- a claim Russia denied, while maintaining that it has the right to use military force there if necessary to protect ethnic Russians.
"Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s," Clinton said, according to audio of the event released by the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Clinton went on to say that when Putin looks at Ukraine, "he sees a place that he believes is by its very nature part of Mother Russia."
Putin has justified his actions in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March, as his efforts to protect native Russians. Hitler used a similar augment when he annexed neighboring Austria and Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland in 1938, one year before invading Poland, which sparked World War II.
Clinton recalibrated her comments at an event the next day, telling an audience at the University of California Los Angeles that she was "not making a comparison" and was merely offering "a little historic perspective."
Since then, though, Clinton has made tough talk on Putin a semi-regular occurrence, especially regarding Ukraine.
"I hope there is not another Cold War," Clinton said during the question and answer portion of a March appearance in Montreal. "Obviously, nobody wants to see that. I think that is primarily up to Putin."
She later added if Putin is allowed to get away with the annexation of Crimea - which it appears he has - "you will see a lot of other countries either directly facing Russian aggression or suborned with their political system so that they are so intimidated that in effect they are transformed into vassals, not sovereign democracies."